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For immediate release -- August 3, 2000.
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Attorney General Sets Meetings on Agricultural Contracts

Producers, lenders and public are invited to learn about new laws that protect farmers in agricultural contracts - and share information about problems they face. Miller says meetings will help shape likely new legislation.

DES MOINES-- The Attorney General's Farm Division will conduct public meetings next Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington and Montezuma, Iowa, focusing on helping protect the interests of farmers who face a sharp rise in the use of production and marketing contracts.

The meetings will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, August 8, at the Washington City Library in Washington, and at 9 a.m. Wednesday, August 9, at the Poweshiek County Extension Office in Montezuma. Later meetings are scheduled for Manchester, Hampton, Spencer and Fort Dodge.

Producers, lenders and any others are invited to the public meetings, which will be led by Assistant Attorneys General Steve Reno and Steve Moline of the Farm Division. Attorney General Tom Miller's office is organizing the meetings in cooperation with ISU Extension offices.

"We are conducting the meetings as another response to the huge increase in production and marketing contracts," Miller said. "The meetings have two main objectives. First, we want to make sure everyone has the latest information about new laws that ban confidentiality clauses and give producers other protections. Second, we want to hear what kinds of problems producers are running into as we draft additional legislation concerning agricultural contracting."

Miller said his office is working on a "Producer Protection Act" to present to next year's General Assembly. "We've established some strong protections already, but we can do more," he said. "This is a key area for continued action to protect family farmers. We want to hear from producers what kind of problems they are facing."

Reno and Moline also will discuss measures enacted recently by the Legislature that affect producers - including banning confidentiality clauses in contracts and providing contract grower lien protection.

"For example," Miller said, "the meetings will explain that producers no longer need be reluctant to share information about their production contracts with other farmers or their bankers and lenders, because our law now bans confidentiality clauses." Miller's Office also recently began posting copies of contracts on its web site: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org.

"The extraordinary rise in the use of contracts by larger and larger firms results in a disparity of bargaining power between producers and contractors, and that poses an increased risk of contracts that are unfair to farmers," Miller said. "These meetings aim to give producers the latest information on new laws that help balance the scales -- and to hear from producers what additional steps the Legislature should take."

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